FOX hunters and supporters from across Appleby, Tebay and Orton were among those to gather at the launch of a nationwide campaign to carry on hunting regardless of any ban.

Rydal Showground, outside Ambleside, rang out with hunting horns, the whine of foxhounds and addresses of defiance as the hunting community gathered in its hundreds on Friday.

Declaration Day was organised by the Countryside Alliance and the Council for Hunting Organisations and saw more than 1,000 people sign up to peacefully disobey any ban.

It is hoped that as the protest gathers pace, the Government will be forced to reconsider the wisdom of any law which opponents say will be openly defied, difficult to police and challenged in the courts.

Edmund Porter, chairman of the Central Fell Packs Committee and a member of the Eskdale and Ennerdale Hunt, addressed the crowd.

He said: “When I first started in hunting over 45 years ago I never thought I would be standing here today fighting to save hunting.

“Fell fox hunting is unique to the Lake District - it’s carried out in a totally different manner to hunting in any other part of the country, and the world. All this would go out the window if there was a hunting ban”.

Eddie Braithwaite, 63, a retired farmer from Ormside near Appleby, is the chairman of the Lunesdale Foxhounds, whose area takes in Appleby in the north, Settle in the east and goes as far south as Lancaster.

He said: “We are here to sign the declaration which would mean that if they did decide to ban the hunt, we would carry on regardless. I am a law-abiding sort of chap but if that’s what we have to do, we will face the consequences”.

Alan Todd, 50, of Tebay, the northern area chairman of the fund-raising committee for the Lunesdale Foxhounds, said he had signed the declaration to: “Let them know that we mean what we say, that we are not going to give up and we are going to fight to the end”.

“If it means breaking the law, I am not going to back off. I am not going to bow down to them.” Mr Todd maintained that fox hunting with dogs was the fairest way to control an animal with no superior predator.

He said: “People say ‘well why do you need so many hounds?’…I say, just the same as you need so many police to catch one criminal”.